Spanking Is the Easy Way to Parent
The Fist is First
I was waiting for my number to be called in a crowded waiting area. Bored, I struck up a conversation with a fellow customer and the security guard on hand. It was difficult not to notice an unruly child in the room with us. The guard, a muscular man, said he knew what that boy needed. He made a fist.
I shuttered. This large ball of fury was a scary sight to me, a hefty fifty four year old man. I can imagine how terrifying it would be to a ten year old child.
About the Author
Russ Inserra is a 1983 graduate of Indiana State University where he earned a BS in Child Development and Family Life. Russ has four children, mostly grown, and four grandchildren. He has worked for over twenty years in Youth Ministry, Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health and other child serving professions.
United States Versus The World
In 1979, Sweden became the first country to completely outlaw corporal punishment...yes that includes parents. Depending on which source you use (incredibly, sources on this subject do not line up) there are now a total of 42 counties that prohibit corporal punishment of any kind towards children. 30 more have passed laws that limit physical punishment of minors in some way or another.
Canada, for instance, has a 120 year old law that limits spanking to children between the ages of two and twelve years old. Blows may be enforced using only an open hand and must be "transitory and trifling in nature." Some countries state that only a parent can administer a hit to the kid. No grandparent, aunt, or any other caregiver may legally punish a child, physically.
In Sweden, rates of child abuse have declined and referrals to children's hospitals has decreased to one sixth of previous cases. Swedish rate of death due to child abuse is less than one third the American rate.
Yet a report from Child Trends, a research group operating in the United States, states that in a 2013 study that 94% of American parents had spanked their children ages 3 to 4 within the past year. The report also stated that 77 percent of men and 65 percent of women said that children sometimes need a "a good hard spanking."
I suspect that I will receive a lot of not so lovely comments on this article.
Not very long ago, children were considered property of their parents and specifically of the patriarch of the family. It was thought that society and the state had no right to interfere with how parents chose to discipline a child. It was not until progressive government took hold in the 20th century that such things as child labor laws and compulsory education became law. In fact, some libertarian politicians and philosophers still believe that only the parents know what is best for the minors in the family unit. While Ronald Reagan was Governor of California, he opposed compulsory education for children as government intrusion into the privacy of the family.
The first child abuse cases were prosecuted in the United States n the late 1800s. These cases were tried in New York City even though there no laws on the books concerning abuse of or neglect of a dependent. The first cases were tried under cruelty to animals statutes. In this country, we found it more important to protect our animals than our children...both being considered property and under the complete control of their owners.
These views parallel those of women as citizens due rights. It wasn't until the 1870s that the right of a husband to "physically chastise an errant wife" was refuted and repealed in the United States. In the United Kingdom, such rights were not removed until 1891.
Recent events of a prominent National Football League running back has brought child abuse and spanking to the front page of the news. This individual's defense was centered around the statement of love he had for his son. I do not doubt that this father loves his son, but the idea that love justifies all treatment to those who are at the mercy of people with more authority and power than we runs contrary to what we stand for in this country.
Spank or Hit?
The word "spank" is a unique word which is used to minimize what we are actually doing to our children. If an adult hits another adult it is called assault. If a teenager hits an adult it is a crime. Yet when an adult hits a child, it is called love. For the good of the child. So What are we teaching our children?
That they are less. It creates a sense of inferiority and that they do not deserve the the same protection as others in our society.
It teaches them to be victims. We now know that those submitted to corporal punishment are more prone to be victims of violence as adults.
It Discourages the use of reasoning.
Violence is the answer to resolving conflicts.
Negativity towards others and society.
Fear and anger.
Common sense also tells us that it just doesn't work. We, in the United States, have one of the highest violent crime rate in the world and we, by far, have the highest rate of incarceration. If we, who use corporal punishment more than most any country, were using this successfully, the opposite would be true.
Be virtuous and you will be eccentric— Mark Twain
Discipline and Punishment
There is a difference between discipline and punishment. Of course we must teach our young citizens right and wrong. We must teach them acceptable and unacceptable behavior. We want our sons and daughters to be successful, to reach their full potential and grow up to be happy, healthy adults.
There are alternatives to spanking. They do, however take more time, patience and, yes, discipline from us, the caregivers.
Time Outs. I hear time and time again that time outs do not work. some parents even say that it makes sissies of their kids. I know that time outs can and do work. One of the big problems we have with this method is that it is often not used in the most effective way.
Remember the Dennis the Menace cartoons? Time outs are the new "go sit in the corner." it is a time honored and proven method of discipline and teaching. The problem is that even the "experts" don't get how it is supposed to be used.
I worked for a short time in a girls correctional facility. Sometimes it was necessary to remove a young lady from her peers and put her in an isolation room. It drove me crazy, though, how staff member after staff member would walk by, look in the window and make a comment to the offender. They were undercutting their own discipline.
The point of the time out is isolation. Kids love attention. Withdrawal of attention or of anything that can occupy their mind is very difficult for them. When putting someone in time out, it must be done calmly and without comment or rebuke. Just isolation and boredom.
There must be a proper space for this procedure. A room with a TV and a computer is not time out. Somewhere quiet is best. I understand that there is not always an ideal space for this discipline but do your best. Keep other kids away from the one in isolation.
The rule of thumb is one minute of time out per age of the child. Five minutes to a five year old is an eternity. Any more than this can be counter productive by causing too much anxiety for the youngster. There can be latitude with this once kids become 10 or older.
Redirection. This is best used for toddlers. Often toddlers don't understand what they are being disciplined for and find it difficult to accept. "The Terrible Twos" are a time when a child naturally begins to use the word "No" quite a bit anyway. This is a natural stage in development used by the child to gain independence. Often, especially in public, it is best just to draw his or her attention in another way. Eventually, however, the child must learn that when mom or dad says "no" that the rules must be obeyed. Use this technique with discretion.
Withdrawal of privileges or toys. This can be effective for specific discretions involving said possessions or privileges. I have seen a parent so overuse this technique, however, that the young one just quit caring or liking anything for fear it would be taken away.
Reasoning. This is to be used with older kids. Each child matures at different rates and his or her ability to understand reasoning and empathy will vary. Usually a girl is ready for this sooner than a boy. Reasoning is the ultimate goal. If a parent can get to the point where he or she can discipline by reasoning alone, that is quite an accomplishment. The goal after, all is to get our children to internalize right and wrong behavior so that they enter adulthood with self discipline.
Positive Reinforcement. While coaching youth sports, my rule was at least three positive comments or "atta girl"s for every correctional or instructional statement i had to make to each player. While working with abused and neglected children, the rule was at least double that. The more beaten down a young one is by negativity, abuse, neglect ot failure, the less punishment works. In fact, punishing kids who come from homes or schools where the environment is not supportive can often be counter productive. The more punishment, the more resistance and acting out. We need to use a lot of high fives, fist bumps, and superlatives to produce the behavior we want. Discipline is more than thwarting negative acts, it is promoting positive ones.
Parenting Is Not For Sissies.
Being an effective adult caregiver is tough. Probably the toughest thing we will ever do. It is also the most important. Our kids and our world are relying on us to raise happy, healthy and disciplined citizens. We can do it. It just takes time, patience and a lot of discipline on our part.